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We're a jerry-built shanty town thanks to architects

Is there no end to the vandalism of Belfast city centre?

First we had the destruction by the Baptists of the "smallest house in Belfast" in favour of a width of tarmac in Great Victoria Street. Then the amazing disappearance in recent weeks of most of the Amelia Street area, leaving only the long-derelict Ewart Building standing between the atrocities of Great Victoria Street and the elegance of the Ulster Hall.

Then there has been the destruction of the Orpheus building and the ongoing threat to destroy Victorian structures in Queen Street, matched by the featureless mess of Shaftesbury Square.

Now the Science Library in Chlorine Gardens off Stranmillis Road has disappeared, doubtless to be replaced by something equally as ghastly as the unsightly recladding on the architecture department in Chlorine Gardens and the Bernard Crossland Building on the Malone Road.

A handy rule of thumb for those developers aspiring to change Belfast would be to make sure each new build is so ugly that no one objects to its being demolished in due course.

Unhappily, this rule has been in fact observed religiously for many decades, as developers in the city, under the cover of attacks by Hitler and terrorists, have set about the erasure of the 18th and late 19th century city.

It's a melancholy legacy this generation leaves its children and young people. The very civic space, which other post-industrial cities in Europe seek to conserve and reanimate as the backdrop to newer developments, is viewed in Belfast as simply an opportunity for a quick buck.

We have already passed the tipping point in Belfast.

I urge the guardians of the civic space in the 10 other local authority areas to be mindful of the quality of the urban world they pass on to the future and learn from the sad mistakes of the jerry-built shanty town of Belfast.


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